Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The road to Damascus 2

The next stop of our Marian Pilgrimage was in Loyola, the birth place of St. Ignatius. We were able to celebrate Mass in his "Room of Conversion." There were four Spanish people who also attended our English Mass, but then I took the opportunity to address them with some words of thanks since it was their older generations who transmitted to us the Catholic Faith.

I prayed fervently for our Ateneo de Manila professors who have publicly dissented from the Catholic teaching on the artificial means of contraception. Paradoxically, upon returning home, 40 more professors would do the same public dissent. I am sure many of us feel the pain of this internal dissension. A word of caution as well, not because they are Ateneo professors, we would take their position as something worthy of emulation and put into question the wisdom of the Church. It will be tragic to believe that their being part of the intellegentsia makes them above the Church Teaching and God's Word.

This also serves a call for the Catholic intellegentsia to make your voices be heard and articulate in the public realm the soundness and logic of the Catholic doctrines! The Catholic Faith is rooted in Sacred Scripture and backed-up by reason. Faith and Reason go hand-in-hand and in the particular issue of the Artificial Means of Birth Control (by the way, let us not fall into the trap of calling it Modern Means of Contraception, it is not modern, it is plain and simple Artificial), Faith-Reason-Science go together. The Church position on the Artificial Means of Contraception espoused and promoted by the Reproductive Health Bill, among other things, is based on all three: Faith-Reason-Science.

Our Bishop in the Diocese of Tarlac, Most Rev. Florentino F. Cinense, just came from Germany and he had a discussion with some university students. And guess what was one of the questions! Why does the Church oppose Artificial Means of Contraception when it is better than the option of abortion! And my Bishop responded that both are evil, and it cannot be a choice of a lesser evil. He went on to make an analogy: What would you want me do to you: slap you or kill you? Certainly, we would choose neither.
Let me add as well that although not all contraceptives are abortifacient, nonetheless, all artificial means of contraceptives act against the very nature of the marriage act: that is both unitive and procreative.

St. Ignatius of Loyola's road to conversion began when he was wounded in Pamplona and had to stay in bed in his home in Loyola. As time went on, he became increasingly bored. He asked for novels to read, but the only books to be found in their house were two religious ones: The Life of Christ by the Carthusian Ludolf of Saxony and a medieval best seller, variously known as the Golden Legend and the Flower of the Saints by a Dominican named James of Varazze:
When he was thinking of the things of the world, he was filled with delight, but when he had dismissed them from weariness, he was dry and dissatisfied. But when he thought of performing the rigours he saw in the lives of the saints, he was not only consoled while he entertained the thoughts, but even afterwards he remained cheerful and satisfied. ( Michael Ivens SJ: An Approach to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, p.8)

St. Ignatius' encounter with God through sound books reminds the need for good books for our children and young. We remember St. Augustine whose conversion was also facilitated by the reading of good books. Tolle and lege, Take and Read, was what he heard and followed. And such reading led him, as it would lead St. Ignatius, to encounter God and his truth.
Thus began, Yñigo's own "road to Damascus." His conversion grew and matured in time. One of the highlights was his pilgrimage to Monsterrat, a renowned Marian Shrine. There he made a confession of his entire life. Then on the eve of the Annunciation, after putting on his pilgrim garb and donating his fine clothes to a beggar, he spent the entire night 'without ever sitting or lying down, but now standing, now kneeling before the altar of Our Lady.' (Ibid. p. 11). There before
Our Lady, he "surrendered" his sword.

At Loyola, our group prayed and sung his prayer:
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
save that of knowing that I do your Most Holy Will.

Wounded and battered are good soldiers. And good soldiers do not fade, they triumph eventually.
Ave Maria!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Road to Damascus

THIS year marks the bi-millennium birth anniversary of St. Paul. Before, he was Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians until his travel towards Damascus that God's grace made him Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

In Rome now, they have opened a special "Jubilee Door" at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. We had the opportunity to celebrate Mass there just very recently at the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. In that Chapel is the Crucifix in front of which St. Bridget received the Fifteen Prayers in honor of the wounds of the Lord.

The figure of St. Paul reminds us that no matter how we led our lives in the past, we can always atone for them, and more so, live a life that is meant for us by the Lord. Paul had that utter change. God worked in him. And to culminate his earthly life, he died a martyr's death.

Well, we actually began our Marian Pilgrimage by visiting Avila in Spain. It was my first time in Avila and I was deeply moved in being in the place where Teresa begun reforming Carmel, and in the end, reforming the Church members as well, as the Church is perfectly holy in her Head who is Christ and ever needing sanctification in her members.

We were able to offer Mass at the birth place of Teresa and her words echoed through mind and heart:

Nada te turbe
Nada te spante
Todo se pasa
Dios no se muda
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada te falta
Solo Dios basta.
Solo Dios basta.

In the ever fleeting concerns that we are offered, Teresa reminds us, Solo Dios basta. Since we often forget that struggle for sanctity is a joyful one, I remember as well those words of hers: Spare us O Lord from gloomy saints!

From Avila, we proceeded to Fatima, which appropriately enough was the 13th of October. Although I have been there in the past, it is always a new and renewing experience. The evening procession was impressive. The group was also graced to have led in Tagalog part of a decade of the Rosary.

Early morning of October 14 we offered Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Cova d'Iria. And in our hearts, and me in my poor and sinful heart, begged Our Lady to safeguard the Filipino Family and enlighten our legislators. We cannot give up in our legislators. If Saul the persecutor of Christians, by God's grace, was transformed into Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, any and all our legislators can be transformed as well into true Christian leaders. With God, there is nothing impossible.

At Fatima, Our Lady asked for prayer and penance especially for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins. There at the small poor village, Our Lady told the world that many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them. We pray for one another, for our own true conversion.

The three children who were blessed with the apparitions of Our Lady are now all in heaven. Francisco, who could only see but neither hear nor speak with Our Lady, died the earliest. He spent many hours in prayer to console the Lord. Together with his sister, Jacinta, was declared Blessed by the Servant of Go, John Paul II, in May 2000.

Jacinta—who could see and hear Our Lady but not speak with Her—died alone in a hospital, as foretold by Our Lady, but she was never left alone by Our Lady. She spent her life offering prayers and sacrifices for the Holy Father.
Lucia—who could see, hear, and speak with Our Lady—eventually entered the Carmel in Coimbra, some hours away from Fatima. Our Lady told her she would live longer than her two cousins since through Lucia, "God wanted to establish devotion to her (Mary's) Immaculate Heart." She lived until 13 February 2005.

In these three children, we see not only the innocence of the little ones but their simplicity and conviction to fulfill God's Will. We may have already lost our own innocence, but we could still be simple and convinced in fulfilling His Will.

May this month of the Holy Rosary inspire us all the more to pray, act, and lead lives that are totally consecrated to Mary. And may we take up again the daily and regular praying of the Rosary. Ave Maria! Ad Jesum per Mariam.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The wonderful people given by God

OF late, the articles that appeared in this column have been doctrinal. Allow me to be personal again for this particular issue.

October 7 is the date of my priestly ordination, and this year marks the 10th year. The date has been a personal request on my part, that day being the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.
I wish to look back in gratitude to all the wonderful people that God placed along the path of my life to guide me closer to God, to Our Lady, and to the journey to the priesthood.
My lola. When I was yet a toddler and child, and my parents had to earn the living, she took care of us. But I will fondly recall how she would bring us to our Parokya, St. James the Apostle Parish in Paombong, Bulacan. During my kindergarten days in St. Martin de Porres Catholic School, still in Paombong, she would bring me there and stay whole day to be my bantay. She was the first one to teach me the basic prayers. She died one morning when we were the only two persons in our home, a morning that she told my mother that there were no classes in school and we need not go there but the truth was there were classes.

The teachers, staff, and my classmates in St. Martin de Porres Catholic School and the Dominican Sisters of St. Joseph, all the basic tenets of our Faith, I learned there. Although, due to economic constraints many are unable to be part of the Catholic educational system, still it is the best place for children to learn, discover, and be nourished in the Catholic Faith. It was there under the Dominican Sisters that I came to know and fall in love with Our Lady and the praying of the Rosary. The priestly vocation, I believe, was first nourished there.

My lola had an RVM Nun as a sister, Mo. Bernarda Bartolome (she died at the tender age of 102) and a Jesuit priest as a brother, Fr. Pablo Bartolome, SJ. Fr. Pablo, our lolo padre, was assigned in Malaybalay, and whenever he goes to Manila, he would pass by our home. I remember the last time he passed by, he gave me a Rosary and told me that I would be a priest. He died a week later. Our lola madre would instead always send us religious materials, stampitas, scapularios. One of the magazines that she sent marked a very deep impression in my life, the magazine was entitled, Divine Love Magazine. One particular issue had the story of Fatima in it. The story left, I believe, a lasting effect in my soul. The Fatima Message of Our Lady became a focal point in my life. I hungered to know more about Our Lord and Our Lady, and at a tender age, I prayed the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Later on, with my fondness to write letters and ask for religious materials, I came across the Pieta Prayer booklet and there I found the consecratory prayer to Jesus through Mary composed by St. Louis Marie Grignon di Montfort. How I would pray almost all the prayers there everyday until one day my mother reminded me not to forget my duty as a student to study well. The wisdom of the mothers!

I was in high school when the National Marian Year was declared. How my father would patiently accompany me in Manila to go to Luneta for the Closing of Marian Year in the presence of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima. There were more than a million people, and because it was already late in the evening and we still have to commute back home, we weren’t able to come close to the image of Our Lady. Yet decades later, I would come across Her again and this time in charge of her travel in the Philippines.

My father would also accompany me during the National Eucharistic Year, the Mass and Vigil at the Rizal Coliseum to mark the canonization of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, regular visits at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela, and so many other events. Thank God for these wonderful parents.

St. Martin de Porres would come to meet me again years later. It was on his Feastday, November 3, that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989. That event devastated me. I could not believe God would allow such suffering to befall my family. The next months would be a personal suffering for me. I would spend evenings at the Adoration Chapel at the EDSA Shrine begging God and Our Lady for a miracle. But there was no physical cure that was forthcoming.

I remember one evening of December in 1990 when my mother was already very weak. I went out of our bedroom crying, I could not stand the thought that I would be losing my mother very soon. I was crying at our sala, and my mother noticed it. Despite her weakness, she struggled to get out of bed, and walked towards the living room, she hugged me and told me, Gagaling ako, huwag ka nang umiyak. But I knew she would not get well.

During her final days, she asked me once, Nakita muna ang Mahal na Birhen? Never was my answer, it will never happen. Then she told that she would see Our Lady of Fatima whenever she closed her eyes. I remembered how every Saturday we had our block Rosary, and she would carry the image of Our Lady from one house to another. She even made a request, that she hoped she could come to visit Lipa Carmel someday. She never did. My mother died in January 1991, a day before she would have turned 47.

Every First Saturday thereafter I would go to Lipa Carmel not only to fulfill my mother’s request but to request Our Lady as well, now that I don’t have my mother, You should be my own Mother. I am now unable to go Lipa Carmel every First Saturday since, I would like to believe, we brought Her closer home. Every First Saturday at the Tarlac Cathedral, we have our First Saturday dawn procession.

On the day of my ordination, I would never forget a gift to me. It was handed to me by a priest who didn’t tell from whom it came. It was a priestly stole, on one part is the image of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All-Grace, and on the other part, the words of Our Lady in Lipa Carmel which I take to mean to be meant especially for me: I am Your Mother.

From Paombong in Bulacan, the Diocese of Tarlac has been my home now for more than a decade. To the Bishop, priests, nuns, and lay faithful of the Diocese, I could not express enough my gratitude for welcoming a stranger in their midst.

God indeed gives wonderful people along our path, to draw us ever closer to Him. And the most wonderful is Our Lady: Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt, O Virgo Maria!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hagia Maria Theotokos

BEFORE the dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary was defined (which was defined in relation to the Divinity and Humanity of Christ), there were a number of heresies that propped up and were all related to the Person of Christ. Three of these main heresies are the following:
Docetism, derived from the Greek dokeo, “to seem.” It is the erroneous belief that Christ only seemed to be human, that He did not really have a body of human flesh. It denied the Incarnation; Christ did not really have Mary as His mother according to the flesh. It was one of the first theological errors to appear in Church history, for it is probably the target of the warning of 1 John 4:2,3: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come: and even now already it is in the world.”

Ignatius of Antioch (died 98/117) and Irenaeus (115-190), and Hippolatus (170-235) wrote against the error in the early part of the second century. Docetism was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Arianism was a Christian heresy first proposed early in the 4th century by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius. It affirmed that Christ is not truly divine but a created being. The fundamental premise of Arius was the uniqueness of God, who is alone self-existent and immutable. The Son, who is not self-existent, cannot be God.

Led by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, the council condemned Arianism and stated that the Son was consubstantial (of one and the same substance or being) and coeternal with the Father, a belief formulated as homoousios ("of one substance") against the Arian position of homoiousios ("of like substance"). Nonetheless, the conflict continued, aided by the conflicting politics of the empire after the death of Constantine (337).

Nestorianism is the error that Jesus is two distinct persons. The heresy is named after Nestorius, who was born in Syria and died in 451 AD, who advocated this doctrine. Nestorius was a monk who became the Patriarch of Constantinople and he repudiated the Marian title "Mother of God." He held that Mary was the mother of Christ only in respect to His humanity. The council of Ephesus was convened in 431 to address the issue and pronounced that Jesus was one person in two distinct and inseparable natures: divine and human. Nestorius was deposed as Patriarch and sent to Antioch, then Arabia, and then Egypt. Nestorianism survived until around 1300.

The problem with Nestorianism is that it threatens the atonement. If Jesus is two persons, then which one died on the cross? If it was the "human person" then the atonement is not of divine quality and thereby insufficient to cleanse us of our sins.
To address in particular the Nestorian heresy, the Church convoked the Council of Ephesus. The Council of Ephesus was held in 431 at the Church of Mary in Ephesus, Asia Minor. St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, appealed to Pope Celestine, charging Nestorius with heresy. The Pope agreed and gave Cyril his authority to serve a notice to Nestorius to recant his views or else be excommunicated. Before the summons arrived, Nestorius convinced the Emperor Theodosius II, to hold a General council, a platform to argue their opposing views. Approximately 200 bishops were present. The proceedings were conducted in a heated atmosphere of confrontation and recriminations. It is counted as the Third Ecumenical Council, and was chiefly concerned with Nestorianism.

In summary, Nestorius believed that Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth to the incarnate Christ, not the divine Logos who existed before Mary and indeed before time itself. The Logos occupied the part of the human soul (the part of man that was stained by the Fall). But wouldn't the absence of a human soul make Jesus less human? No, Nestorius answered because the human soul was based on the archetype of the Logos only to become polluted by the Fall, therefore Jesus was "more" human for having the Logos and not "less". Consequently, Mary should be called Christotokos, Greek for the "Christ-Bearer" and not Theotokos, Greek for the "God-Bearer." Cyril argued that Nestorianism split Jesus in half and denied that he was both human and divine. This was essentially a Christological controversy.

At the urging of its president, Cyril of Alexandria, the Council denounced Nestorius' teaching as erroneous and decreed that Jesus was one person, not two separate people: complete God and complete man, with a rational soul and body. The Virgin Mary was to be called Theotokos because she bore and gave birth to God as a man. Nestorius was solemnly deposed and stripped of his Episcopal dignity. The decrees of the Council of Ephesus were later ratified by the delegates of Pope Celestine. The night on which the decrees were promulgated, crowds of the faithful took to the streets and shouted enthusiastically, Hagia Maria Theotokos, Holy Mary, Mother of God. Such cry that became the hallmark of Christian orthodoxy.
(Acknowledgments: Wikipedia, The Mystery of Mary: Rev. Dr. Paul Haffner)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In darkness, light

THE 22nd day of June 2008 would simply be another footnote in history someday given the string of tragedies and calamities our nation has to endure. Yet for many, it will be day to change their lives forever.

An hour before I was to celebrate the Holy Mass at our Cathedral in Tarlac at 9 in the morning, I wanted to see and hear the news first knowing that there was a typhoon that was passing. And lo, the news was that somewhere in Romblon they were finally able to spot the missing ship, Princess of the Star, but capsized and the passengers and crew missing.

One of the survivors was able to relate later on that to his recollection it took only about 15 minutes from the announcement to abandon ship to the actual sinking of the ship. He related how he even heard the cries of the children that were trapped inside the ship, as well as the old and the young who were left on the ship as they struggled to get to the life boats.

And among the remains that were first washed ashore were the remains of a couple—a man and a woman—whose hands were tied together to each other, presumably so that they would not lose each other in the sea.

Five minutes before the start of the Holy Mass, I asked the choir if the Gloria would be sung in English or in Tagalog. English, Father, the Choir leader said. And finally I set to begin the offering of the Holy Mass. Genuflected before the tabernacle, kissed the altar, and proceeded to the Presider’s Chair. Fewer people this morning, I observed, it was a morning of torrential rains and strong winds.

I could not turn away from the thought of those who perished during the onslaught of the typhoon. I strived to pray for them and for their families. I even thought if it would be appropriate to sing the Gloria that morning. The first Reading, the Responsorial Psalm, the second Reading, the Gospel, then the Homily.

Where was God during those fateful fifteen minutes when the ship was sinking? Where was God when the children were crying? Where was God when His people were drowning?

My thoughts while listening to the readings became my spontaneous words during the Homily: did I need to reassure the faithful? Did I even need to reassure myself? No, it was God reassuring us all. He was there through it all.

So many thoughts crossed my mind that morning. I remembered the year 1990, my last year in College taking up BA in Philosophy. My mother was struggling to survive from cancer. Series of chemotherapy and cobalt treatment, only to end up her cancer metastasizing to her lungs, liver, and bones. Almost every evening I would spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament begging God to heal her. Going to the EDSA Shrine Adoration Chapel, spending overnight vigils alone imploring God to give my mother a longer life. And physical healing and longer life on earth were not His plans for her. The pain, the anguish, and the ultimate cry of the feeble human heart: Where was God?

Does God turn a blind eye or play deaf when His people suffer? Or does He shed a tear when you and me suffer and die?

And suddenly the Gospel of that particular Sunday of June 22: And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul... Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So DO NOT BE AFRAID; you are worth more than many sparrows (Mt. 10: 28, 29-31).

My prayer was and my prayer is, may they—when they were drowning and gasping their last—their angels would have whispered to them: DO NOT BE AFRAID. And that when they had opened their eyes—their every tear and pain would have been gone, for when they woke from their slumber, God is there.

In darkness, light. In death, life.

In the Litany of Loreto, we invoke Our Lady as Consolatrix Afflictorum, Consoler of the Afflicted. We beg you, Our Lady, help our people in our suffering and pain, for never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection or sought your intercession was left unaided. Our Mother, help and protect us. Amen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Calling all families!

Today in the world where life is born There's a struggle that is fought To be welcomed, to be cared, to be at home.

ONE of our seminarians was telling me just some minutes ago how the other day he happened to pass by a child sleeping by the roadside. He then decided to give the child the cookies that he just bought. The child's reaction was simply surprising, for the child asked the seminarian, Ikaw ba si Hesus? (Are you Jesus?)

We've grown so used to seeing the poor around us, it has become a natural thing to simply pass them by. And we've been so used to having so many children around us, some have considered them now a burden!

Today when all life seems bought and used
There's a struggle to belong
To be free and to be a gift to everyone

Still remember the news item sometime ago when a group of Filipinas were arrested in Europe because of prostitution? And the news release further stated that when confronted by the police why they resorted to prostitution, their answer was that it was in order for them to send money back home to the Philippines. In most certain terms, prostitution will never be morally acceptable. What breaks our heart is that though noble our intentions may be, the end can never justify the means.
nd that brings us to the myth of overpopulation. That we are poor because we are too many. Over population has already been debunked. And poverty can never be a reason for us to justify any resort to immoral means, and that includes, artificial means of contraception.

Forty years ago, 25 July 1968, the Holy Father, Paul VI, already prophetically mentioned the ensuing contraceptive mentality that will lead to disintegration of families, failure of marriages, and break down of moral standards. Forty years later, we find our world ever worsening in its moral outlook and our own country threatened by forces and movements working against family and life. We simply have to observe what is happening now, the Consolidated Bill in the House of Representatives on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood, Population Management; the various ordinances passed by the local government units such as in Olongapo City, Quezon City, Davao City, just to name a few.

We call all families Rise up and raise your hands as one Come show the world the love that binds
All God's children into one

Hence, we ask all our families to let your voice be heard. We cannot accept any legislation of immorality. Our leaders have to respect our Faith and moral beliefs. Join us at the RALLY FOR FAMILY AND LIFE on 25 July 2008, 3 to 6 pm, at the historic site of People Power at the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace at EDSA.

Like the Holy Family with Jesus, Joseph, and Mary Home is where true love begins.
Love rejoices! Love embraces!

In this struggle to defend Family and Life, we cannot but be rooted in Christ through prayer and sacrifice. Our gathering at EDSA will not simply be a show of force, it is show, a manifestation of the power of Love, God's love for the Family and Life. God willing as well, after this activity, we may have stronger Family and Life Ministries in our arch/dioceses, and the Filipinos families more aware for the need to vigilant in the defense of Family and Life values.

May Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Grace, Queen of the Family, be with us and guide us in this struggle. Ave Maria! Ad Jesum per Mariam.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Hearts of Jesus and Mary

THIS year, many liturgical celebrations have been celebrated earlier than usual—beginning with the Holy Week, the Easter Triduum and continuing on with the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
For many that have been used in having the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in the month of June, it became May 30 this year. And to confound us even further, there is no Memorial of the Immaculate Heart this year since it fell on May 31 which is the Feast of the Visitation.
The Biblical Roots of the "Heart"

In biblical language the heart is the vital center for life that is specifically human: sense life, the life of the will and intellectual life. For this reason the figurative use of the word is vaster in the Bible than in modern languages. The Bible speaks for instance of thoughts that arise from the heart, of the perverse designs that proceed from the heart, to open the heart of someone in understanding, or to apply the heart, that is attention and will, to something. God scrutinizes the heart, that is, He knows the most intimate movements of a person and his most secret intentions. (The New World Dictionary Concordance to the New American Bible)

Let me also quote here an article of Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello:
Devotion to the immaculate Heart of Mary is primarily based upon the Sacred Scriptures. In the New Testament, there are two references to the Heart of Mary in the Gospel according to St. Luke: ..."Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.” (Lk. 2: 19) and "His mother meanwhile kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:51) In the Old Testament, the heart is seen as the symbol of the depths of the human soul, the center of its choices and commitments. For all mankind, it is a symbol of love. In the Book of Deuteronomy we are told, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Dt. 6:5) When Our Lord Jesus Christ was asked by the scribes, which was the first commandment, he answered them by quoting this verse to them. (see Mk. 12:29-31)

It was the Heart of Mary which expressed her "yes” to God…This was her response to the message sent through the angel at the Annunciation. By her loving consent, Mary first conceived Christ in her heart and then in her womb. Our Lord Jesus, Himself: when reminded by a woman in the crowd how blessed was the womb which gave birth to Him, responds, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Lk. 11:28) Pope John Paul II, in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, wrote "the mystery of Redemption was formed under the heart of the Virgin of Nazareth when she pronounced her 'fiat.’” (R.H. #22)

Historically, devotion to the Heart of Mary can be traced to the twelfth century with such writers as St. Anselm (d. 1109) and St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) who is considered as one of the most influential writers in Marian devotion. St. Bernardine of Siena (1380- 1444) has been called the Doctor of the Heart of Mary due to his writings on Mary's heart. He wrote, "from her heart, as from a furnace of Divine Love, the Blessed Virgin spoke the words of the most ardent love.”

St. John Eudes (1601-1680) helped by his writings to begin a renewal in this devotion. Both Pope Leo XIII and Pope St. Pius X called him, "the father, Doctor, and Apostle of the liturgical cult of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.” Even two decades before the first liturgical celebrations in honor of the Heart of Jesus, St. John Eudes and his followers observed February 8th as the feast of the Heart of Mary as early as 1643. Pope Pius VII (d. 1823) extended its celebration to any diocese or congregation requesting it.

Devotion to Mary’s Heart has a greater flowering following the manifestation of the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 and the Appearances of' Our Lady in Fatima. From May 13 to October 13, 1917, our Blessed Mother Mary appeared to three children, Jacinta and Francisco Marto and their cousin Lucia DosSantos in Fatima, Portugal. On July 13 she told them: "to save poor sinners, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” The entire Fatima message is one of prayer, penance and making sacrifices and reparation to God for the many offenses against Him.
n 1942, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fatima, Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. That same year, he assigned the feast day to August 22, the octave of the Assumption. On May 4, 1944, he extended the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the Universal Church. With the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council in 1969, the feast was given a more suitable place on the day following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That is the Saturday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.
The Consecration to the Immaculate Heart

Following most specially after the apparitions at Fatima, and the very deep and personal Marian devotion of the Great John Paul II, our contemporary time is a witness to this devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One cannot but think as well of the bronze image of Our Lady and her Immaculate Heart at EDSA in Manila. One year before the EDSA Revolution of 1986, we had our Marian Year with that profound campaign of individual and national consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

St. Louis Marie Grignon di Montfort can be considered as the prime proponent of this Total Consecration to Mary. Although he did not mention specifically the term, Immaculate Heart of Mary, it was he who devote his lifetime explaining and expounding on the theology of Consecration to Mary.

And because Mary is the one who exemplifies the Perfect Consecration to Christ, our total Consecration to Mary would mean Perfect Consecration to Christ Himself. In effect, therefore, being Consecrated to Mary means being Consecrated to Christ.

Totus tuus ego sum Maria et omnia mea tua sunt. I am totally yours O Mary and all that I have is yours.

Ave Maria! Ad Jesum per Maria

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mary, Mediatrix of All-Grace

AFTER the Liturgical reform of Vatican II, every 31st of May we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady to her cousin, St. Elizabeth. But before that, it was an almost universal celebration that every 31st of May was the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces (yes, in the plural which is quite different from the column title which is in the singular).

It was the Belgian Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier who started the campaign in the early part of the 20th century to have the title of Our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces to be proclaimed as a dogma of faith. Later he would make that “twin” campaign for the canonization of then Blessed Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort side-by-side with the campaign for the title of Our Lady as Mediatrix of All Graces. In fact, in his discernment, the proclamation of this Marian dogma will be achieved through the canonization of St. Louis.

Cardinal Mercier died in 1926. By that time, neither was St. Louis canonized nor the particular Marian title defined as dogma of Faith. He had that consolation, however, that Pope Benedict XV granted in 1921 to the whole of Belgium an Office and Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces. This Office and Mass were extended by the Holy See to many other dioceses and religious institutes, so that the commemoration became almost universal.

It is told that the definition of the Marian dogma never occurred because of objections of many theologians. Whatever the reason was, the Church did not see it opportune that time.

Finally, in 1947 Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort was canonized. He was one of the outstanding devotees of Our Lady and through his many writings, particularly the book, True Devotion to Mary, he laid out his particular Marian spirituality of total consecration to Mary as her slave.

The word slavery may sound too offending to our contemporary ears. And yet, we can view it in a very positive manner. Slaves, during olden times, were considered commodities and properties of their owners. In a sense, being slaves of Mary means to be owned by her, but neither as a commodity nor a property but instead voluntarily we declare ourselves to be a possession of Our Lady. A possession that she will safeguard and protect from all harm and danger; a possession that she will treasure and cherish.

The slaves as well, in olden times, were chained. They were chained so that they could not go far from their owners. In the spiritual sense, through the Total Consecration to Mary, we freely “chain” ourselves to her so that neither sin nor evil could make us detached or run away from her.

Months after the canonization of St. Louis came the reported apparitions of Our Lady in the Carmelite Monastery of Lipa in 1948. And yes, believe it or not, in those apparitions, Our Lady identified herself as Mary, Mediatrix of All-Grace (and yes it was in the singular). Our Lady even explained why it was in the singular form All-Grace, she said that such word refers to Christ who is the source of every and all graces.

In those same apparitions, Our Lady requested the Carmelite nuns to consecrate themselves to her as her slaves following the devotional manner enunciated by St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort.

Were all these coincidences? Most certainly not. We can safely assume these are the fruits of the prayers and efforts of Cardinal Mercier and many others who truly believed in the title of Mary as Mediatrix of All-Grace. And particularly, it crosses our mind that it was Cardinal Mercier who decades before already prayed for the canonization of St. Louis and through that canonization the approval of the title of Mary as Mediatrix of All-Grace.

We are told that Cardinal Mercier in his death bed repeated over and over again, Mary Mediatrix, Mary Mediatrix.

Now, that we are fast approaching May 31 and end of the Marian month of May, we turn to Our Lady yet again in a very special manner under that very special title, Mediatrix of All-Grace. Monstra Te esse Matrem, we sing in the Ave Maris Stella, show unto us that you are our Mother.

May Our Lady indeed come to intercede for all of us, but especially come to the aid of our families whose sanctity and dignity are again facing an onslaught of attacks from many fronts.

Monstra Te esse Matrem! Ave Maria. Ad Jesum per Mariam.